The VR Innovator Exploring the Nature of Reality
Together with his co-directors at London-based immersive art collective Marshmallow Laser Feast, Barnaby Steel explores what can be created using emerging technologies — and how interactive and immersive experiences can reshape how we view the world. “The ability to create dramatic perspective shifts and tell stories that weren’t possible in other mediums is at the foundation of what we’re doing, “ Barnaby told The Wick. One of MLF’s first installations, for example, involved an interactive laser forest that reacted with sound and light to human touch. Other projects allowed audiences to experience England’s Grizedale forest through the eyes of insects or submerged them in an aquatic world where speaking creates unique “voice fruits.” More recent work paid homage to the UK’s ancient trees through a series of sustainable dinners with a digital projection of a giant Ceiba Pentandra tree as a backdrop.
Narrator Cate Blanchett describes Marshmallow Laser Feast’s EVOLVER as “an immersive experience on a metaphysical level.” VR headsets and headphones allow audiences to navigate the virtual body, experiencing interactive air, blood and water elements in the veins, heart and lungs. The wow-factor of EVOLVER is reminiscent of the collective’s first VR experience, In the Eyes of the Animal, which allowed people to explore the woods as various insects and animals. And, for their Sweet Dreams project at 2019’s Sundance, the trio created a theatrical mixed reality experience in which headset-wearing viewers eat and drink real food in order to progress through Luscious Delicious Land. (Hey, is that anywhere near XP Land?) Though it tackled heady themes such as gluttony, overconsumption and sustainability, the deliciously fun experience went down easy thanks to Marshmallow’s trademark touches of wonder and whimsy.